Film Review with Robert Mann – Planet 51

Planet 51 **½

2009 has seen something of a revolution in the world of computer animated filmmaking. With digital 3D becoming a fixture in cinemas all around the world, and seemingly here to stay, all the major animation studios have been adopting three dimensions into their movies, giving an edge to films that were already quite impressive to look at to start with. However, while the big boys have all been getting in on the 3D act, many smaller animation studios have been left out. One of these is the Spanish based animation studio Ilion Animation who this week, make their feature debut with the release of Planet 51. Having already been release in the states the film performed extremely poorly, suggesting that demand for animated movies not released in 3D has virtually disappeared over the past year. But while the film may not be presented in three dimensions, does this mean that the film is in any way two dimensional when it comes to quality on its own terms? Sadly yes.

Lem (voiced by Justin Long) is just an average teenager working on getting his dream girl Neera (voiced by Jessica Biel) and furthering his career at the local planetarium – except that he’s an alien. At least to U.S. astronaut Captain Charles T. Baker (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) who lands on Lem’s planet hoping for a quick flag plant and a hasty return to Earth and his millions of screaming fans. But on this alien planet, which bares a striking resemblance to 1950s America, the media has tagged spacemen as brain-eating, zombie-creating monsters, causing Baker to run for his life and into Lem’s house. Now it’s up to the green native to get the clumsy astronaut back to his spaceship before military dictator General Grawl (voiced by Gary Oldman) and mad scientist Professor Kipple (voiced by John Cleese) manage to exterminate the Earthly visitor.

In the animation department, while it may not quite be of the standard we have come to expect from the product of the major animation, Planet 51 does have some things going for it. While rookies to the computer animation game, Ilion Animation has done a pretty decent job here with animation that is bright and colourful and extremely cute and charming with a very smooth look, even if it is a bit lacking in texture. The animation style perfectly suits the content of the film and shows that Ilion may well have a bright future in the world of animation. Sure, the animation isn’t the best you will see this year but at times there are sequences that are quite beautiful. It is really just a shame that the quality seen in the animation isn’t evident elsewhere. For example, when it comes to humour there is a genuine lack of substance. Essentially, the film is a homage/spoof of 50s B movies and this comes with a potential goldmine for gags, something that this year’s Monsters Vs Aliens exploited very effectively, but here much of the humour is rather predictable and the successful gags are more likely to make you giggle than laugh out loud. There are a few in jokes and references that are clearly aimed at older viewers, with films being references including Aliens – alien xenomorphs are kept as pets – E.T., Star Wars and The Terminator. Sadly, none of these jokes are particularly smart and so not only will they not make older viewers laugh but they will also go completely over the heads of younger ones. The voice cast is also pretty serviceable with all involved doing a decent job but no one really standing out in anyway. This is pretty much the way the film is in general, actually – a serviceable and mildly entertaining animated film that may keep undemanding kids satisfied for a while but has little to offer anyone wanting more. There is definite promise in the animation though so here’s hoping that Planet 51 isn’t the last we see of Ilion Animation, but that next time they’ll put a bit more effort into other aspects as well.

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Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)



© BRWC 2010.


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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.

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